Post-bacc FAQ

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    (Thanks to LoneCoyote for pulling this together! :) )

    This is an attempt to consolidate some of the most commonly asked questions on the post-bac forum into one thread so that people can access this info easily. Disclaimer: the author, LoneCoyote, is a post-bac who had no science background, took the classes at state school, and has been accepted to med school. The answer are slanted towards med school, but the basic ideas can also apply to pharmacy, dental school, etc.

    1. What are the different types of post-bac programs available?

    Essentially there are 3 different types of post-bac programs:

    1. Basic Sciences - this type of program is for people who have not completed the basic requirements for medical school and usually are people who majored in something else in college and decided to go into medicine later. The coursework can be done in a formal post-bac program, ie Bryn Mawr program, or on your own at your local university. This is discussed further later in the FAQ.

    2. Advanced Sciences/"GPA Boosters" - this type of program is designed for people who were science majors or who finished the basic science requirements already and i) want to "stay on their game" academically on glide year or before applying to med schools, or ii) feel they need to raise their GPA to become a more competitive medical school applicant. This can also be done at formal programs, or on your own.

    3. Special Masters Programs - these programs are one-year masters degrees (usually) that allow you to earn an MS in biomedical sciences or a related field. They are usually done by people who have a science background and are looking to make their application more competitive, for GPA or other reasons.

    2. How do I decide which type of program is right for me?

    In the end which program is the right "fit" for you is a personal decision. But here are some things to think about :

    What type of program best fits your goals? Do you need to raise your GPA or take sciences for the first time?

    How do cost and location factor in for you? Are you willing to take out loans to do a more expensive formal program? Are you able to relocate to do this? Can you afford to go to school full-time or do you need to both work and go to school?

    What type of environment do you learn best in? Would a more structured atmosphere help you achieve your goals? Do you need smaller/larger class size? Do you like to be surrounded by competitive/motivated individuals who share your goals?

    Will the program give you the ability to do the other things necessary to have a competitive application? Will you be able to get volunteer opportunities in clinical settings, research experience, access to professors who can write you strong letters of recommendation?

    What is the schedule of the program like? Is it structured or do you design it yourself? How long does it take to complete? Does the program offer linkages to med schools?

    Do current students in the program seem happy/satisfied with it? Do people get accepted to schools that you see yourself going to out of the program?

    3. Okay, I thought about all that but still don't know if I should do a formal program or just do it myself at state university. Are their any advantages to doing one way over the other?

    This topic is hotly debated as you'll see in threads on this forum. There is no concrete answer because it depends on the individual's situation. That said, here are some of the commonly mentioned pros and cons of each:

    Formal Programs:

    Pros - these programs tend to have a set schedule to get you out in a certain length of time (usually 1-2 yrs). You usually have special advisors for the program to help you out with the process, finding volunteer opportunities, planning how to study for the MCAT, etc. Some of the "big name" programs, ie Harvard Extension, Columbia, Goucher, Bryn Mawr, Mills, Scripps, etc., have good reputations and get a lot of people into school. Some of them have small class sizes and you get good opportunities to connect with professors. Some will write you a committee letter of rec for med school. You'll be surrounded with people who share your goal and will work hard to get it. Some progarms have linkages to med schools. If you do well enough you can get directly admitted to med school and skip the lag year.

    Cons - The cost is what many see as the biggest con with these programs. With the exception of Harvard Extension, most of them are pretty expensive. Some people feel that these programs create a competitive, "gunner" atmosphere where people are all striving to do better than each other on the tests. Quality of teaching, advising, research and clinical opportunities, can be hot or miss, as with any school. Linkages may not be guaranteed and may be hard to get if you are not in the top of the class.

    Do It Yourself At State School:

    Pros: Usually cheaper than going to a formal program. Flexible schedule that you design yourself. Many schools will give you access to their premed advising and letter services. If you're at a large state school research opportunities can be very good. If you're a serious, older student at a school that has a more "party" feel to it, it is easier to network with professors, get lab jobs, etc. since you will be more focused than many of the students.

    Cons: you have to arrange everything yourself. It may be hard to get into classes you need depending on your registration status. Quality of opportunities varies and may/may not be as good as at a formal program. If you need structure and competitive people around you to do your best, this may not be the best way to go.

    4. What are the "top" programs?

    This is another topic that can cause some debate. But some of the programs that are mentioned often on SDN and seem to have name recognition are:

    East: Columbia, Bryn Mawr, Goucher, UPenn, Harvard Extension, Temple, Tufts, Drexel, UConn, CUNY-Hunter

    South: Wake Forest

    Midwest: UChicago ( ), Loyola, Northwestern

    West: Scripps, Mills, USC, SFSU, CSU-Hayward

    Special Masters Programs:

    5. I am changing careers and I feel old. How long will this take me? How should I schedule it?

    Usually the post-bac takes 1-2 years, depending on how many classes you need to take and how many you can take at a time. Some of the formal programs get you through in one year.

    Something to keep in mind is the "glide year." When you apply to medical school you will start the application cycle about 15 months ahead of when you want to start school. For example, to start med school in Fall 2004, you applied in the cycle beginning in June of 2003. Traditional applicants apply during their junior year of college so that they can do the process during their senior year and start the next fall. For most post-bacs this is not an option because you need to have finished most of the prereqs before you can apply. This is what leads to the glide year between the end of post-bac and the start of med school. If this is an issue for you, you can look into programs with linkages to med schools that let you skip the glide year. Or you are planning to take 2 yrs to do post-bac anyway, talk to an advisor and see if you can arrange your schedule to avoid the glide year.

    Also keep in mind that while it can be tempting to load up on classes, science classes can be very demanding. If you are also trying to work/research/volunteer it is very easy to get overloaded. This is bad if it makes your grades suffer.

    Also, remember that the MCAT requires a lot of studying. So be sure to consider that when making your schedule for the semester/quarter that you will be prepping for the test.

    6. If I do post-bac at a state school can I still do it in a year?

    Yes, it is possible on a semester system. Here's a mock schedule:

    Summer Session 1: Gen Chem 1 with lab
    Summer Session 2: Gen Chem 2 with lab

    Fall semester:
    Biology 1 with lab
    Physics 1 with lab
    O-Chem 1 with lab

    Spring semester
    Biology 2 with lab
    Physics 2 with lab
    O-chem 2 with lab

    That's the minimum. Then some schools want one or more of the following:
    Cell/Molecular Bio

    7. Where can I get more info on a specific program?

    A lot of the more popular programs have been discussed on this forum so try doing a search for the name of the school. This can give you good info about how current and past students liked/disliked the program. Also, the AAMC has a good post-bac site with all of the programs:

    Also, the Health Professions Advisory Program at Syracuse U. has a fantastic site for getting information on post-bacc programs (Thanks Denali!):

    8. What if I have a question not answered on this FAQ?

    Try searching through the old threads on the forum and see if it has been discussed. If not, post and someone will probably get back to you soon. There is some great info and resources on this forum so hopefully it will help you on your post-bac journey. Good luck :)

    9. Do you have something you'd like added to this FAQ?

    PM braluk! :)
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